Amanda Palmer: On My Culture Radar

The musician and activist on Laurie Anderson, the films of Alejandro Jodorowsky and how Wislawa Szymborska’s poetry helped her through difficult times

Amanda Palmer: “After going through a few years containing two abortions, the death of my best friend to cancer, a birth and a miscarriage, in that order, I was just done with fiction.” Photograph: Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images

Amanda Palmer: “After going through a few years containing two abortions, the death of my best friend to cancer, a birth and a miscarriage, in that order, I was just done with fiction.” Photograph: Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images

 

Current favourite comedian?

Michelle Wolf. America desperately needs people like her right now, to speak truth to power and be goddamn hilarious at the same time, because we are quickly losing our sense of humour. Trump is killing our spirits and sometimes it feels like humour is the only thing that will keep us afloat. When I watched her White House Correspondents Dinner video I wanted to stand up and cheer about four times.  Artist

At the moment, Laurie Anderson. I just saw her in conversation with Neil Gaiman, my baby daddy, and it reminded me of her awesomeness but I’ve been following her since I was 18. She’s an art-life zen master. Her new project is about losing the entirety of her basement archive to the hurricane flooding in New York – she’s such an advanced soul, she managed to make incredible art out of the tragedy.  Restaurant

Cafe Pamplona, Harvard Square, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. I still go to Boston on occasion to visit my old crew and my old apartment. Cafe Pamplona feeds my soul and I go out of my way to get there. You go down a set of six narrow stairs to a basement with a low ceiling, there is no music playing, almost no light, there are nine little marble tables, people from Harvard speaking in four different languages, there’s a killer old-world Spanish garlic soup, and the decor hasn’t changed since 1952. There’s no better place on earth. City

That’s a toss-up, it’s either New York or Melbourne. New York, even while gentrifying, still has more diverse, crazy-embracing, accepting, open-hearted and honest human vitality per square inch than any other place I know. I just love walking down the street, my heart relaxes and I feel among my brethren. And Melbourne is humbler, but it still has this electric energy and let’s-just-do-shit attitude that I’ve always been in love with. And Melbourne’s coffee kicks everybody else’s coffee’s ass. Actor

Bryony Kimmings. She creates these incredible theatre shows, turning her life experiences – fear, depression, cancer, you name it – into the most mind-blowing stage shows. If you ever get the opportunity to see any of her shows, go, blindly. Poet

I always feel like a bad poetry fan, because I f***ing love poetry but find so much of it tedious. Then I discovered the poetry of Wislawa Szymborska. I have yet to read a poem by this woman that I don’t like. It could have to do with how raw and emotional I’ve been these past few years. After going through a few years containing two abortions, the death of my best friend to cancer, a birth and a miscarriage,­ in that order, I was just done with fiction. I needed the stories of real life, of truth, of human pain and struggle in its most direct dosage. I wasn’t finding that in fiction; I was finding it in non-fiction, in time with my friends, and then in the poetry of Szymborska.  

Book

After that, about six months ago, I picked up a copy of All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. It’s historical fiction and follows two concurrent stories of the second World War. I don’t know exactly how or why, but it was the work of fiction I needed at the time. I loved this book so much I slowed down to five pages a night towards the end because I didn’t want to leave the world he created, and I ran to the bookstore the week I finished it to buy every novel he has ever written – there was only one, and I devoured that too. All the Light We Cannot See is just one of those perfect books, so searingly painful and beautifully constructed I hope they never make it into a movie.  Film

The Dance of Reality and Endless Poetry by Alejandro Jodorowsky, which came out as two parts of a trilogy over the past few years. I don’t understand why all movies aren’t like his movies. They are like gorgeous, truer-than-life moving paintings of what it is like to be a human. I just participated in his crowdfunding campaign for his final film in the trilogy, and I’m looking forward to it in the way other people look forward to Westworld or Game of Thrones.

Amanda Palmer appears with Laurie Penny at the RDS, Dublin, on May 26th as part of the International Literature Festival. She also appears with special guest Andrew O’Neill at the National Concert Hall, Dublin, on May 28th

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